Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Home Office

Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill [HL]

Lord Trimble Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Friday 15th December 2017

(6 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Trimble Portrait Lord Trimble (Con)
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My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on bringing forward this Bill. It is a pleasure to support it. In her speech, she gave a short description of the circumstances that led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky. I want to reflect a bit on that context, because people are sometimes reluctant to recognise the reality that Russia is not a normal state. It is pretty close to being a mafia state: there are high levels of corruption in all parts of it. Putin’s response to the Magnitsky legislation and the pursuit of Bill Browder indicate that the highest level of government is colluding with the criminality that is in and about the status quo. I wish that members of society here, who can sometimes be found on the expensive yachts of these gangsters, or who think Russia is a country that we can do business with, would think again and bear in mind the character of the people they are proposing to deal with.

As has been said, this is the second half of what one might call the Magnitsky amendment; the first half has already been enacted. I note with interest what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, said. We should look closely at that idea. I hope that we will get the Bill on the statue book, but the big question is whether it will be enforced. I have concern in that area, and I will illustrate them. Dominic Raab, who has taken an interest in this matter, tabled a question in the other place asking,

“if any of the 60 individuals named on the list published by the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe, individuals involved in the tax fraud against Hermitage and the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, published in June 2012 have visited the UK in the last year; and if she will disclose the details of any such visits”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/4/13; col 499W.]

Unfortunately, the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper, replied that it was,

“long-standing policy not to disclose details of records which may be held in relation to arrivals in the United Kingdom. The Home Office Special Cases Directorate is already aware of the individuals on the list and has taken the necessary measures to prevent them being issued visas for travel to the UK”.

That is Mark Harper mark 1, doing quite well by signalling that. Unfortunately, a letter was sent over his signature a few days later to the editor of Hansard stating:

“Although the Special Cases Directorate has taken measures to ensure that applications for travel to the UK are flagged up for careful consideration on a case by case basis, no decision has been made to refuse their leave outright”.

That is disgraceful. To talk about all applications being dealt with,

“on the individual merits of the case in line with our usual practice”—[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/13; col. 2MC.],

is quite chilling. These are not usual cases and they should not be treated as part of the usual practice.

The point was made earlier that these provisions actually work. Freezing assets and denying access to them here are hitting the oligarchs and criminal gangs where it hurts. We should be doing this as a matter of policy, rather than waiting for individual cases to come about. I want not just to support the Bill, but see that it is enforced as a matter of general policy. It gives us a very valuable tool. Coming to London is attractive and refusing that will enable us to make a difference. It is a demonstration of our effective soft power, which is something we should use. I hope that we will do so and that the Bill will become law speedily.